Carol Preisinger still has to laugh at some of the looks she gets when a male golfer walks into the clubhouse at the Kiawah Island Golf Resort, asks: "Is the director of instruction here?" and she answers, "Yeah. That's me."
A former LPGA player and a member of the Kiawah Club staff since 2004, Preisinger has long ago fought the battle to be recognized for her skills as an instructor rather than for her gender - and has won that battle hands down.
But even better, she says, that's becoming less of a struggle for women teachers in general - not just those who, like Preisinger, are at the top of their profession.
"There are a lot more women (instructors) now than when I started," she says. "Our (LPGA teachers) membership is around 1,700 now; when I joined, it was probably 800. We have a lot of good teachers and coaches out there."
That includes a growing number who teach at golf courses, golf schools and elsewhere in South Carolina. Consider that, of the top six SC instructors as ranked by Golf Digest, four are women.
Among those: Julie Cole, who served as director of instruction and managing partner of the Dana Rader Golf School in Charlotte, now teaches at Sea Pines Resort on Hilton Head; Krista Dunton, at Berkeley Hall Club in Bluffton; and Patti McGowan, head golf coach at Converse College in Spartanburg. All rank in Golf Digest's "Top 50 Women Instructors." Abby Welch, who works at Kiawah Island Resort, is ranked among "America's Top 40 Teachers Under 40"; Meredith Kirk, a nationally ranked LPGA Class A Teaching Professional, was a Top 40 under 40 in 2015-16.
As for Preisinger, she takes a back seat to no one, male or female, for both talent and tenure. In 2017, she was named the LPGA's National Teacher of the Year for the second time in her career. The first time was in 1998 - nearly two decades ago.
That's not to say she hasn't gotten better, though. "I can look back on some of the lessons I gave in the 1990s," she says with a chuckle, "and I should give those people their money back."
"The only way to grow (as a teacher) is to learn. I think the key is continuing education; the more you teach, the more people skills (you have). You have to know how to diagnose what's causing a player's flaws and communicate that properly to your students."
And that, she believes, comes easier for a woman instructor than a man - not only when teaching women, but men as well. Some attribute that to women teachers being less intimidating to players, but there's more to it than that.
"I think women have an edge over men; we're better communicators," Preisinger says. "Women in general are more patient, and to be a good teacher, you must be. I have as many men as women who take lessons from me."
"I make a lot of men (instructors) mad (saying) this, but they try to teach what they feel. Not only do they not connect with women, but also not other (male) players."
It also helps when you have the qualifications that Preisinger has. "If male players see (those), they're eager to take a lesson from me," she says. "I think we're finally starting to separate from the male-female concept in golf. It's still there, but (now) it's more who's the best teacher (and) who has the most knowledge."
Preisinger's knowledge is well-earned. She learned golf from her father, George, a retired PGA of American life member who spent 50 years in the game. She tried her hand on the mini-tour circuit, but discovered more of a passion for teaching than for competing.
"One day, a club member told me, ‘If you love to teach, the LPGA has a teaching division.' I didn't know that. I got my Class A in 1992 and won my first national award in 1998, and things took off from there."
Though the majority of her work is with members of the private Kiawah Club, Preisinger also has outside students. "They can be sponsored by a member, and since club members own real estate (on Kiawah Island), it benefits us to show off the island. If I have openings that don't interfere with working with members, absolutely" she will take on other students.
Preisinger and Kiawah Golf Resort instructor Abby Welch also team up each spring to do a women's golf school, open to anyone staying at the resort. And as a Golf magazine "Top 100 Instructor," she does instructional videos for the magazine's online site, GOLF.com.
Still, Preisinger says, she prefers face-to-face instruction. "It's great that a lot of information is out there, but if there's no dialogue between teacher and student, no personal connection ..."
So long as that's the case, hands-on golf instruction - notably by women - will continue to grow, Preisinger says. "There's huge growth in girls golf, high school and college players, and women's level of play has skyrocketed," she says. "Those who don't turn pro are going to find a niche in the industry."
Preisinger hopes those women will feel the way she does about teaching golf. "I don't have a job - I have a joy," she says.